You likely know creating a will is an important step in estate planning and becomes even more crucial if you own a substantial amount of property. When you look into how to make your will, you may discover horror stories about inheritances gone wrong and conclude you need an estate planning lawyer. Searching for an “estate planning lawyer near me” is a common first step in selecting the best one.

The Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., offers comprehensive estate planning services from an experienced estate planning lawyer in NYC. For nearly 20 years, we have dedicated our practice to our community and clients.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves creating legal documents and processes directing what should happen to the property you own when you die. Typically, this involves:

  • Creating a will,
  • Establishing one or more trusts,
  • Designating powers of attorney, and
  • Making an advance directive.

With the help of your estate planning lawyer, you can not only gain peace of mind but implement techniques to maximize the size of the estate you leave behind.

What Might Happen If You Have No Estate Plan?

If you die without a will or leave an invalid will, you lose control over what happens to your property. Contrary to popular misconceptions, your estate does not immediately pass to the government if you die without a will. 

Instead, it will be passed on to your relatives through intestate succession law, which determines who inherits based on the deceased individual’s (“decedent’s”) family tree. If no surviving family member exists at a given level, you move on to the next lower level, and so on, until you locate a living person. 

In New York, intestate succession begins with the spouse and descendants. When the decedent leaves:

  • A surviving spouse and descendants—the spouse receives one-half of the estate plus $50,000, and the children receive the rest of the estate;
  • A surviving spouse and no descendants—the spouse takes the entire estate; and
  • Descendants but no surviving spouse—the descendants take the entire estate.

If the decedent leaves no surviving spouse or children, the next closest surviving relatives take the estate, moving through:

  • Parents;
  • Siblings or their descendants;
  • Grandparents, their children, or grandchildren; and
  • Great-grandchildren.

Only if the decedent has no surviving relatives at this level will the state take ownership of the estate.

Although these laws attempt to best approximate what the average decedent would have wanted, real lives are more complicated. For many, intestate succession would result in someone they would not leave property to in a will taking some or all of their estate, like a single person’s estranged parent. For others, intestate succession cuts out important people, like close friends, long-term partners, or charities. 

What Can Our NYC Estate Planning Lawyer Help You With?

When you hire a lawyer to help you create a comprehensive estate plan, we help you ensure that your property gets where you want it to go, your assets are protected, and you have care as you age. Our estate planning lawyer can also assist you through probate if you have experienced a recent loss.

Managing Probate

A decedent’s estate is managed through probate, satisfying their debts and distributing their assets. We can help you manage the estate, including challenging a will, defending against a will challenge, or undertaking the role of an executor or administrator.

Creating or Updating a Will

A will is the core of most estate plans. Through your will, you identify which of your assets should go to whom. Your lawyer can help ensure that your will uses clear and concise language and meets the legal requirements (“wills formalities”) that make a will valid. 

A person who makes a will (a “testator”) must be at least 18 and of sound mind at the time it is made. Utilizing a lawyer can help attest that you are of sound mind, meaning you understand what you are doing. 

Your will must:

  • Be written,
  • Be signed by you, and
  • Be witnessed and signed by two disinterested witnesses.

To change or update your will, you follow the same requirements. 

When creating a brand new will, you need to revoke the previous one. Your lawyer can help ensure that a revocation is effective, preventing any conflict from arising in the future. To update your current will, you may need to execute an addition known as a codicil.

Establishing One or More Trusts

Trusts allow you to set terms on assets by separating the property into different ownership interests. The trust creator (“grantor,” “settlor,” or “trustor”) establishes the trust and its terms, providing the assets that fund the trust. The trust beneficiaries benefit from the trust. A trustee manages the trust, owing a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

You can fund a trust in your lifetime—a living or inter vivos trust, or after your death—a testamentary trust. The terms of your trust may also authorize you to take the property back—a revocable trust, or may forbid you from retaking your property—an irrevocable trust.

Trusts can serve many purposes depending on your needs. For example, you may establish a trust to:

When you meet with your lawyer, you can discuss what trusts might work in your estate plan.

Designating Powers of Attorney

You can designate durable powers of attorney to manage your medical or financial affairs. A power of attorney can stand in for you and make decisions if you become incapacitated. 

Communication is essential to selecting a power of attorney. Inform the person you select that you chose them and discuss your wishes with them.

Making an Advance Directive

An advance directive, also known as a living will, allows you to set out your medical wishes in advance. You can explain what treatments and medication you would and would not like to receive in a binding legal document.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in NYC

Ensuring you have an effective estate plan typically requires consulting an experienced estate planning lawyer. If you are looking for assistance preparing your estate, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today.